The Rio Intl. Film Festival wrapped Monday amid political tension and with a strong local competition that awarded Marcelo Gomes’ “Paloma” the top film prize. It is based on the true story of a poor trans woman who struggled to marry her partner in a religious ceremony.

Following compact editions over the past three years, Rio Fest – traditionally Latin America’s main film fest – regained part of its original size and importance, as it premiered locally about 120 features selected from the top international film fests, resumed outdoor screenings and featured a hybrid market.

The highlight was Premiere Brasil, the competition of 86 features and shorts for the Redentor kudos.

Adirley Queiros’ and Joana Pimenta’s “Mato Seco em Chamas,” a Brazil/Portugal coproduction, received the jury special prize. The pic combines both fiction and doc elements to tell the story of two sisters who lead a gang that sells oil stolen from a pipeline.

Thiago Zanato’s “Exu e o Universo” received the doc award. The feature is about Prof. King, a Nigerian researcher who lives in Brazil and studies Afro-based religious.

The jury also granted an honorable mention for “7 Cortes de Cabelo no Congo,” helmed by Luciana Bezerra, Gustavo Melo and Pedro Rossi, a doc centered on a Rio-based Congolese hairdresser and his revolutionary theories.

Politics was present in many ways in this year’s fest, reflecting the country’s division on the verge of the Oct. 30 presidential election. Public and talent openly expressed their support for former president Lula da Silva at many premieres, and their distaste for right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro.

The incumbent waged a war on culture and artists during his almost four-year term, when it downgraded the Ministry of Culture to a Secretariat, cut funding from the production incentive, and withhold disbursements of Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual, the main local incentive for film and series production.

“The public’s political manifestation is something we cannot control, and I would say it is quite understandable and actually inevitable,” Rio Fest’s director Ilda Santiago told Variety.

Brazil’s shift to right-wing governments over the past years directly impacted Rio Fest, as it lost its main sponsors: federal state-owned oil company Petrobras, federal bank BNDES and Rio City Hall. The lack of funding combined with the pandemic created a “perfect storm,” which Santiago believes to be over with the new administration of City Hall resuming the municipal sponsorship this year, and the addition of a second master sponsor from the private sector.

The main world premiere in the fest was the one of Amazon Prime Video’s series “El Presidente: The Corruption Game.” A continuation of series “El Presidente,” the Gaumont-produced, eight-episode series features the journey of Joao Havelange to seize control and transform the soccer federation Fifa into a global power with as many country members as the United Nations.

The multinational series’ cast attended the premiere of the series’ two initial episodes at the fest’s headquarters, landmark theater Odeon. Prime Video will launch “The Corruption Game” on Nov. 4 in 240 countries and territories.

“The first season was about Fifa Gate. The decision to focus the second season on Joao Havelange’s story represented a challenge for me. Havelange had built for himself a perfect image, of somebody who never lost a battle and had no family conflicts,” said Oscar-winner, series’ creative director Armando Bo.

The outdoor screenings were held on Copacabana Beach and Olympic Boulevard, the downtown area renovated for Rio’s 2016 Summer Olympics. The 10, free of charge screenings gathered about 10,000 people.

RioMarket had a hybrid format, and gathered 5,249 in-person attendees and 70 players, who took part on 70 lectures, 15 workshops and two round tables